My Year in Review, 2017

I don’t usually write a year in review post, but I thought I’d give it a go for once. Let me know what you think!

Varonis

Running the digital marketing team at Varonis is always my number one professional focus. I don’t let any other projects steal my attention unless I feel like I’m doing my absolute best for the company, our CMO, and my team.

Fortunately, 2017 has been a monumental year for us. I can’t share details other than what we tell Wall Street, but suffice it to say we’re crossing the chasm.

The team expanded this year: we’re now 11 people strong and have two open slots. That may seem like a decent-sized team, but it’s quite lean for a $1B+ company.

We look after websites, content marketing, product marketing, analytics & reporting, online advertising, social media, paid social, email marketing, SEO, video, design, branding, public relations, analyst relations, and demand generation. More responsibilities than people to own them. :-)

I’ve written a bit about how we work, and I plan to share more of that, including some of our tactics and process, in the coming year.

Lastly, I got to speak at conferences in San Francisco, Vegas, and Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Mastering HubSpot

I didn’t (entirely) ship Mastering HubSpot this year. I consider this a major fail. I’m so bullish on this product, and yet I haven’t been able to cross the finish line.

Why did I fail?

I put Mastering HubSpot on a pedestal. I can’t tell you how many lessons I’ve designed, recorded, and scrapped. For some odd reason, I feel like the quality of this course is a direct reflection of my skill as a marketer, and anything less than perfect is unacceptable.

It’s crazy how I can put my Varonis hat on and build a workshop on a complex cybersecurity topic, from scratch, an hour before having to present it for the first time in front of a room of Fortune 500 CEOs and not break a sweat. But when it comes to shipping a course covering material that I’ve lived and breathed for six years, I hem and haw.

No more.

There are so many crappy courses out there that are triple the price of Mastering HubSpot. My course is going to be exceptional, and I have to get over myself. The end.

The truth is, Mastering HubSpot will never be DONE, done. The plan is to ship a big chunk of lessons and routinely update and adding to the course as the HubSpot product evolves and new tactics and strategies come into fashion.

I’m happy to report that in the past two weeks I’ve written nine new lessons to go with the six that are already available. That should be plenty of content to launch with. I just have to sit down, record, and start spreading the word. (Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered the course! I won’t let you down.) 🙏🏼

Munchkin Report

The little app that could. Munchkin Report just keeps chugging along at a slow & steady pace with no marketing whatsoever. I made a measly 24 commits to the source code this year, mostly bug fixes.

Still, Munchkin runs itself and, by simply existing, attracts new customers. We have healthy visit-to-trial and trial-to-paid conversion rates, churn is low, and customers are happy. We’ve even had considerable acquisition interest that I’m not quite ready to entertain.

We have to put some promotional firepower behind Munchkin Report. It has all the makings of a successful bootstrapped business, but the EdTech market is fraught with peril. Munchkin requires unwavering attention that it didn’t get in 2017 and is unlikely to see in 2018.

Mentorship

I opened my calendar up to anyone who needed advice or just wanted to talk shop. I took a bunch of Skype calls with aspiring marketers looking to level-up their career, negotiate a higher salary, break into consulting, and more. It was fun, and I see no reason to stop in 2018.

Personal stuff

It’s been a bit of a rocky year filled with ups and downs.

The Ups: My 6-year-old daughter graduated kindergarten, my son started pre-K (and started an imaginary landscaping business called “The Leaf Thief”), and my baby girl celebrated her first birthday. The kiddos have kept me motivated, entertained, and busy. We also took our first family vacatio…err, trip, to the beach.

I’ve started teaching my 6-year-old how to code. We’re using code.org, and it’s been great fun! She’s also learning marketing concepts: traffic, funnels, brand, etc. I’m so proud of her.

The Downs: I lost my father to cancer this year. I spent a lot of time with him in the early months of 2017 helping him fight ’til the end. It was trying and painful and heartbreaking, but I’m eternally grateful for the time we had together.

The Meh: It seems like everyone’s got their act together, what with all the meditation, mastermind retreats, yoga, gratitude journaling, and magic morning routines. I missed the Zen memo in 2017.

My days are chaotic, scattered, and reactive. I rarely exercise, I sleep odd hours, I don’t drink enough water, and I eat too many carbs. There is no routine or consistency to my days and nights. I desperately need to work on this in 2018.

Despite the chaos, I’m still happy and productive most of the time. I attribute that to my OCD-like organizational habits and competitive drive, but lord, imagine if I got my routine and health in order?

Things I’ve enjoyed in 2017

Products & apps

Podcasts

Books

Blogs & online communities

Goals for 2018

Ship Mastering HubSpot in January and release new lessons with the consistency of Swiss train. Figure out a repeatable traffic strategy to attract new students. Over-deliver value to the people who enrolled. I’m aiming for 100 new students.

Live healthier. I’m not sure exactly what this looks like just yet, but I’m going to start by doing some form of cardio each day and severely cutting down on refined carbohydrates–probably something that looks like the slow carb diet. I’d like to run a 10K race by the end of the year.

Keep growing Varonis. I have big plans for 2018. I can’t go into detail about numbers we want to hit or projects planned, but you’ll get a feel for what I’m thinking if you read the section on big themes I wrote below.

Speak at a marketing conference. I’ve been heads-down executing for quite a while now. I have plenty of ideas bottled up. Some of them escape in the form of essays or a rare podcast appearance, but if you’re reading this and involved in recruiting speakers, hit me up! I can speak on many topics, especially in the realm of enterprise B2B marketing & sales. I think the circuit could use some fresh takes from the trenches.

(Sort of a related goal–let’s call it goal 4a–is to run a couple of in-person Mastering Growth workshops with my friend Jim. More about that here.)

Essays on deck for 2018

Titles subject to change, but please don’t steal ’em. ;-)

Big marketing themes for 2018

SEO. The law of shitty click-throughs is real, and organic search, for most businesses, is still the pound-for-pound king of all channels. Apart from brand-building, SEO is usually the most durable growth investment you can make.

Once you grow big, it’s easy to drift away from SEO and start flirting with other channels, but what if all that effort was funneled back into epic content that ranks, link-building, improving link architecture, site speed & UX?

Data. We’re hiring a new data analyst to pick up where Aaron left off. Losing Aaron underscored how indispensable a dedicated analyst is to a marketing team, and we still have lots of work to do, starting with slaying the marketing attribution beast and establishing a regular cadence for analysis and experimentation.

Personalization. So many companies suck at contextual marketing. The technology is here, it’s not complicated, and the potential is enormous. So why do so many companies suck at this? They lack strategy and execution.

I’m going to execute the hell out this in 2018, with more contextually appropriate emails, ads, web copy, sales outreach, etc. based on, lifecycle stage, website & email behavior, products owned, etc.

Contextual marketing & personalization strategy will likely be one of the core themes that I write, speak, and consult on in 2018.

Account-based marketing & chatbots. I have mixed feelings about both of these (relatively) new waves, which I plan on sharing in an upcoming essay. I’ve been experimenting heavily with both (in conjunction, actually) and have strong opinions based on actual practitionership, not headline-reading.

Thank you for reading this

Wow, you made it to the end?! Maybe you fell asleep on your spacebar. Either way, it’s a win in my book! I wish you all the best in the new year.

Your pal, Rob

P.S. Need a little kick in the ass heading into 2018? Watch this: